July 24–All Is Welcome Here: Even the Troubles

I’ve spent a long time now observing what happens to many of us when a life event takes us to some edge of human experience that is too troubling to allow into our lives.

When I was a very young minister serving a congregation in which two babies died within one year of each other (and while our firstborn was only a toddler), I watched and listened as people in the community, were driven to one of those edges (the edge call death, and bad things happening to babies). They panicked and began trying with words to make the trouble go away–the trouble of making sense of babies that die. And so they spoke.
“God chooses the prettiest flower in the garden to pick.” “It’s all going to work out for the best.” “This was God’s will.”

Words no parent who just lost a baby would find consoling.

There are others examples. Right now, on any issue of racial injustice, white people are apt to say something like “well, I just don’t see color.” Or, “all people are the same to me.” Or, “I don’t care what color you are, black, white, purple or striped . . . “
No one suffering racial injustice finds these things consoling or helpful, and they don’t make racial injustice or white supremacy, go away.
With some recent suicides of famous people in the news lately, it has happened in a more public way what happens in smaller pockets of human relations every day. Suicide is very troubling to anyone that comes close to it, even from a bit of a distance. And the comments begin. “Suicide is so selfish.” “If he/she had just waited one more day.” “How could she/he do that to their children?” “He/she may have had troubles, but now they are in hell.”

No one who has ever lost a love to suicide finds any of that consoling or helpful. Those saying them are trying to make the trouble go away.

It’s easy to dismiss these kinds of comments as coming from heartless individuals, from ignorant people, from the misguided or the misdirected.  Any one of those determinations might be true, but it seems to me that at the heart of it all are the truly scary, dark places that life can take us for which we have nothing but our own heart’s terror–unless we try and say something to avoid that terror with almost anything that feels familiar.

When we start talking to avoid our own terror, two harmful things happen simultaneously: 1) we add excruciating pain to the lives of those who are already suffering; and 2) we lose our next opportunity to transform in our own lives.

The transformation can come as simply as this: STOP.  SAY NOTHING. And welcome the terrorizing thing in.  Let it in.  Talk to it.  “Tragic death, I don’t understand you.  White supremacy, I am at a loss to know what to say to you.  Suicide, you leave me with no meaning.  Really horrible, scary thing, I see you.  I allow you into the room.  You are welcome here–as much as you trouble me–because maybe you are the messenger.”

Since we say those other really awful things for our own benefit, these words of acceptance and openness need only be said to ourselves, maybe while standing in front of a mirror.  “I don’t like you, Trouble.  I want you to leave me alone, but here you are at my door.  Come in.  All is welcome here.”

Bob Patrick

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4 Responses to July 24–All Is Welcome Here: Even the Troubles

  1. Margaret Townsend says:

    This is a very powerful (and scary) suggestion. It DOES work. “Welcome everything” and still your mind. Even tough issues want your acknowledgment. These will dissipate and bring a return to calmness.

  2. Lydia says:

    What a difficult bit perhaps necessary statement to make

  3. Barbara says:

    Oh my how to.process this to actual changes in behavior. May I remember these words and this acceptance in the moment.

    • Bob Patrick says:

      Barbara, I am fairly certain I wrote this out of that same desire–to find a way to process this toward actual changes in me. I have been fortunate enough to be the observer of some things. I need to be a better practitioner.

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